KINSMAN NOTCH TO FRANCONIA NOTCH BACKPACK
Backpacking DATE: 08/06/2022 - 08/07/2022
Trip/Event Location: Lincoln, NH
Max # People: 6
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
This up-and-down 17 mile section of the Appalachian Trail has very technical rocky terrain but the rewards take us up to open ridgeline ledges, thick forests, mountain ponds, streams, waterfalls and...
We’ll first spot cars where we end then carpool to Kinsman Notch. The finishing trailhead is on US 3, at the Liberty Springs/Whitehouse Trailhead parking lot, 0.2 miles north of the Flume Visitor Center. We’ll be driving a blue Toyota Tacoma truck.
This section was extremely strenuous due to the changing elevations and the wet/ rugged footway. In this section we hiked up Mt. Wolf [3478’], North Kinsman is [4293’] and South Kinsman [4358’]. Carrying a 30 pound backpack makes hiking a whole different story! We just put our heads down and took one step at a time. Sweat dripped as we hiked in oppressive heat…hot and humid.
Day One: We started at Kinsman Notch and hiking by 8:15, headed to Mt. Wolf with an overnight stay at Eliza Brook Shelter. We added a side trip to Gordon Pond so overall mileage on our first day was 8.1 miles.
The trail started uphill quickly from Route 112 and Kinsman Notch along some fine rock steps but eventually moderated into a series of ups and downs and false summits on our way to the top of Mount Wolf (elev. 3478). We spent the day hiking a wooded ridge. We spotted some bunchberry and bluebead lilies along with a variety of mushrooms during the day.
We found Gordon Pond to be peaceful with lots of beaver activity and a view of Mt. Wolf that we would shortly climb. Mt. Wolf [3.478 feet] became something of a running joke because we kept thinking we were there and we weren't. Mt. Wolf did offer a view of Franconia Ridge worth admiring!
After Mt. Wolf, until we reached Reel Brook trail intersection, the trail is rocky and rooty, with a lot of elevation change all over the place. We worked for our miles. We arrived at the Eliza Brook Shelter at the base of the Kinsmans feeling much more drained than we usually would after 8 miles of hiking. Surprisingly, on a Saturday night, we shared Eliza Brook Shelter with only one other section NOBO hiker and there were about three NOBO’s tenting.
Day Two: Next morning we had a 9.5 mile day ahead of us and 2,450 feet elevation gain. We began the 2,000 foot ascent up towards the Kinsman’s peaks under overcast skies. The trail followed Eliza Brook up a ravine for almost a mile, with one cascade after another!
It really wasn't until we hit the bog boardwalk at Harrison Pond that the massive peak of South Kinsman Mountain came into clear view! From there, rock climbing took place of traditional hiking. We put our poles away as we had to pull ourselves up and over large boulders for the next several hundred feet of elevation gain. This climb was no joke; although tiring, we thoroughly enjoying the rock climbing. One scramble after another after another. We had to stop and ponder whether to go to the left or the right.
We were greeted to clouds on the summits and were really disappointed after all that effort! The descent leads down to Franconia Notch. When we got to Kinsman Pond we took a break on the shore.
It was very steep going down to Lonesome Lake on the Fishin’ Jimmy trail with steep and slippery sections. We were reminded why we don’t like the Fishin’ Jimmy trail! It was about 2:00 pm when we rolled into Lonesome Lake Hut. When we got to Lonesome Lake, it started to rain heavily so we dashed into the hut for shelter. While waiting for the rain to stop we had a couple cups of coffee, a slice of blueberry coffee cake and a slice of cake with cream cheese frosting. Afterwards, we enjoyed the views of the lake and Franconia Ridge in the distance with a few people swimming!
The Cascade Brook Trail is very rocky so it slowed down our pace. We were never so happy to hear the sound of a highway as we approached I-93, which runs through Franconia Notch. We were exhausted, physically and mentally at the end!
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